Monday, December 25, 2006

Trip to Jaipur - Dec 23 - 25, 2006

(Amer fort from the highway)

Another long weekend, another opportunity for a weekend getaway, so what better place to go in this chilly weather than the nearby Jaipur. We planned and got the hotel booked on the same day (i.e. 20th Dec 2006) via . Due to the peak season and our late timing all we could grab was a three star hotel (Hotel Kanchandeep, Vanasthali Marg, Sindhi Camp, Jaipur) for about Rs 5200 for a couple of nights. Though the next day we got a call from that due to some problems at the hotel end, we could not get the reservation and had to settle for another hotel in the same locality (Hotel Kohinoor, Vanasthali Marg, Sindhi Camp, Jaipur). The hotel was actually awful (more about that in another post maybe), but after the bookings had finally been confirmed we decided to take the road trip to Jaipur starting Saturday early morning.

Day - 1 , 23rd December 2006

8'O clock in the morning we finally started off for Jaipur. It was a lot more foggy than expected, but hopefully it cleared out within a couple of hours. Finally reached & checked in to the hotel at around 3:00 PM the same day and headed for a Rajasthani Thali meal nearby for 55 bucks which was really awesome. After that took a auto for 100 Rs. and headed for Jantar Mantar in the core of the city.

(Hired Auto in the pink city - Jaipur)

The experience at Jantar Mantar was really awesome, with some great time measuring and astrological tools. It's actually hard to believe that people could think in such a scientific manner with the bare minimum resources they had at their disposal at that time. A visit to Jantar Mantar is very much recommended during your stay in Jaipur. Next we headed for Hawa Mahal, but unfortunately we got late and could not get the entry (as the entry for most of the palaces, forts and other places of interest closes at around 4:30 PM.), so all we had to be content with a view from outside :-(

(Hawa Mahal)

Next we decided to head for Chowki Dhaani, which is a good 20 kms from the center of Jaipur and luckily we managed to reach there by 6 in the evening. As expected this place is actually a world apart and a heavenly experience. The entrance on that day was Rs 300 per head which included the main meal (I guess we had options of three cuisines) and most of the activities inside were for free. We were welcomed with a traditional tikka at the resort, and as soon as we entered the resort it looked like a neat and tidy village setup of Rajasthan. We were greeted by quite a few people and some of the popular activities going inside were

  • Free champi maalish for all visitors.
  • Magic shows, puppet shows etc.
  • Elephant, Camel and bullock cart rides for a very nominal ride of 20 rs per person.
  • Various games like arrow shooting etc.
  • To top it all the Rajasthani buffet dinner was really awesome.

All in all Chowki Dhaani is definitely not to be missed in your trip to Jaipur. Check some of the pics which we clicked.

(Chowki Dhaani Entrance)

(Bhul Bhulaiya)

(Shopping place in Chowki Dhaani)

(Eating area in Chowki Dhaani)

(Another view of the eating area in Chowki Dhaani)

(A Dog show in progress in Chowki Dhaani)

By around 10'o clock we were really exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel. The Jaipur road Atlas which I had bought on the way, really helped me out with finding the way back in one go ;-). So my exciting first day in Jaipur finally came to an end. Do check out my next post about the adventures on the second and third day in Jaipur.

Day - 2 , 24th December 2006

Woke up the next day in the morning and decided to visit a few forts in Jaipur. Starting off with Amer fort, leading to which was a hilly road which both of us quite enjoyed. There is also an option of taking a Camel ride up the Amer fort, but we preferred to take our car all the way up (Be prepared to drive in the narrowest of lanes if you choose this option.)

After Amer Fort, we next headed for Jaigarh fort, which holds the largest canon in the world. Some other attractions of this particular fort is that as per the legend there was a treasure inside the tank in this fort, which has now been extracted (for which you often hear stories of different versions.)

We concluded our fort visit by a short stop at Nahargarh fort, where we also had our lunch. The highlight of the fort are the nine palaces builr for the princess, plus the panoramic view of the whole Jaipur city is awesome and makes this palace definitelt worth a visit.

After this we decided to head for Chowki Dhaani in the evening again because of the great experience we had the previous night. Unfortunately being a Christmas eve, Chowki Dhaani was overcrowded and we changed are mind. We finally settled to roam around the market in MI Road and had dinner at Dasaprakash ending our second day in Jaipur.

Day - 3 , 25th December 2006
Finally it was time for holidays to get over, and we checked out of the hotel at 10 in the morning and were back at our home at 2:45 PM. So watch out for this place for my next travelogue post.

P.S. - Kudos to They took notice of the dissatisfaction which I had made against the hotel and took the required action. The bad experience in the hotel has been very well compensated by Keep it up.....

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kabul Express - Movie Review

Movie - Kabul Express
Director - Kabir Khan
Producer - Aditya Chopra
Music Director - Raghav Sachar
Date of Release - 15th December 2006

This year has been a good one for Bollywood. Starting the year with a bang was "Rang De Basanti", continued by "Krrish", "Fanaa", "Omkara", Lage Raho Munnabhai" and to some extent by some unorthodox movies like "Khosla ka Ghosla" and "Pyar Ke Side Effects". (I know I have counted out Dhoom-2). So does Kabul Express meets the expectation and hype surrounding it ? It sure does.

The movie is all about exciting 48 hours which are spent by an Indian Journalist(Sohail Khan played by John Abraham) and his cameraman (Jai Kapoor played by Arshad Warsi) in the war-torn Kabul just after America has toppled the Taliban regime. One of the rare breed of Hindi movies which doesn't contain even a single song (I missed the starting 10 minutes of the movie, so please forgive me if it contained any song) with full marks to director Kabir Khan for keeping the viewer spellbound for flat 120 minutes. In fact one of the few movies which kept me so engrossed, that I regretted when the interval happened.

Coming back to the plot of the movie. The Indian duo above are dying to have an interview with a Taliban and in the process they end up being stuck with a Pakistani, American, Afghan and a Talbian all travelling in the same Vehicle - Kabul Express. Arshad Warsi continues with his Lage Raho Munnabhai form and his one liners gel really well with the movie. His comments on Pepsi/Coke, Imran Khan/Kapil Dev and especially Indian cigarettes look quite natural and don't hamper the flow of the movie. John Abraham is looking good in the movie, but in comparison to Arshad falls a little short. The Afghan driver and the Taliban have also done a commendable job. The locales in which the movies has been shot are excellent and the cameraman and the technical crew have also done a great job.

Overall a good watch, with which I could not find any major flaw and definitely not to be missed.

Rating - 4/5

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gmail on mobile for me .. finally

Ever since I had activated Net on Phone for Airtel prepaid account, I was trying desperately to access gmail on my mobile unsuccessfully. From what I could figure out, currently gmail officially offers 2 ways of doing so
  1. Downloading the java app on your mobile from . This currently does not work on Net on Phone , as for this you would need to subscribe to Mobile Office.
  2. Pointing your mobile browser to . This for some strange reasons works very slowly or often does not works on my Airtel NOP. Could be the configuration of my handset (Nokia 6021) or some other problems.
On searching further I found an open source web based application called gmail-mobile ( which is not official Gmail web access but works smoothly on my mobile device and has a host of features. For this you need to have a web server, with PHP support. Again for this I took the help of another open source application which helped me to install Apache2, MySql5, PHP5 without any hiccups. I have installed this on my Windows XP box, running on a 256k DSL connection. This link may also help you solve out certain issues with 'Curl' if they arise

Thanks to all these open source packages, I am finally able to use gmail on my mobile... ;-)

Friday, December 08, 2006

My experience with Sony India Audio System & Services

Had been thinking for a long time about sharing my experience with Sony Audio car systems in India. In June 2004, when I bought my new car i had a belief that Sony Audio Car systems are the best, and I went out to buy a Sony Xplod car music systems (Sony Xplod Audio Model No 3300S) with 2 front and 2 rear speakers, all with proper bills and one year warranty from a Sony Authorized Dealer

Musicar ( West) 25100600
Bali Nagar, West Delhi

Things worked great for about year and a half (except some skipping, which could be attributed to the bad roads in Delhi). In February 2006 (Barely a year and a half I bought the player) the car CD player stopped playing quite a few cd's. Then I decided to take the system to a Sony Authorized Service Center

Star Electronics
2/3 West Patel Nagar (basement)
Tel: (011) 25884450, 25884451

(This is now shifted to Naraina)

First of all, the people at the service center don't have the skills to remove the player from the car, and I had to get it done from a nearby shop (where a small kid could do that tough job in a few minutes) . After giving them the player to check the problem I got a call from the Service Center that the CD lens need to be repaired for which I would need to shell out around 2500 Rs. I enquired that will I get any warranty on the lens, which i s being repaired. I was told no, the only warranty I would get is on labour of service which would be also valid for 30 days. I had a talk with Sony Customer Care via the phone and e-mail and got the same response. Having no other option except believing that Sony Authorized Center would be installing a genuine Sony lens (rather than a refurbished one) I got my Sony Car Audio repaired for a bill of approx Rs. 2700. I took the delivery of this set in the first week of March and as is the norm had to get it installed back into the car from another shop.

Barely eight months after the incident in October 2006, the same problem started cropping up again in my set. I had no other option but took my set back to the same Sony Authorized Center (obviously following the same protocol of first getting it removed from some other shop), and after a day got a call from the Authorized Center that I would need to get the lens replaced again. When I told them that I had got it done barely 8 months back, the reply that I got was that there is no warranty on spare parts, so we can't do anything. Strange to believe that a Sony CD lens does not last for more than eight months. Nevertheless I got the CD player back from the Authorized Center without getting it repaired and have been following up with Sony India people via e-mail as given below

  1. 17th October 2006, Dropped email to Got a response same day to provide my contact no so that the concerned person could look into the matter.
  2. 17th October 2006, Replied back to the previous mail specifying my contact number.
  3. 18th October 2006, Got a mail from Sony India , that they had assigned one person to look into the matter and do the needful accordingly.
  4. 20th October 2006, Didn't hear anything from Sony India or the assigned person. Dropped a reminder to Sony India. Got no reply.
  5. 4th November 2006, Still didn't hear anything from Sony India. Dropped second reminder. Got no reply.
  6. 25th November 2006, Dropped another mail to Sony India. Got no reply..
  7. 26th November 2006. Dropper another email to id also. As usual got no reply.

After this experience, I would not like to make any decision or comments about Sony India, especially the after sales service. It's for you, the consumers to judge what's good or bad for us and make a prudent decision rather than just going blindfolded after a well known brand . FYI - I dumped that Sony Audio System and went ahead to buy a Pioneer music system, which hopefully should be having a good after sales service based on my experience with Autocop India. (As a matter of fact Pioneer music systems are being distributed in India by Autocop).

January 3, 2007 update

Got a call from Sony, and they confirmed my details and told me that they would come back to me after having a talk with the service center.

January 12, 2007 update
No response from Sony as of now after their call on January 3, 2007.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hats off to Autocop India

After the horrible experience I had with Sony India (Will post the complete details later), next it was my turn to try out the services of Autocop India. Actually the remote of my car security system had stopped functioning for the past few months. It was bought in June 2004, and I was just too lazy to get it repaired.

Yesterday as I had taken a day off from office, I planned to finally get it repaired and was very much ready to pay for it. I took the Autocop manual along with me so that if the service center needed some more details regarding the Car Security System, it is easily accessible.

Finding Autocop service center in Naraina wasn't too tough esp. after help from the shop owner from whom I bought a brand new Pioneer Music System (Yeah.. no more Sony for me) last week. As soon as I reached their service center I was made to fill up a form specifying my details. Next a service engineer accompanied me to my car, saw that there is a problem with the remote and gave me a new one configured for my car in less than 5 minutes. To top it all it was all covered under guarantee (or warranty, am not too sure at the moment) as Autocop car system comes with a 3 year warranty which I wasn't aware of even though I had the warranty card present in the manual which I had luckily got with myself.

Hence this way after months of apprehension I finally got Autocop working back on my car with minimal effort and zero expenditure. Kudos to Autocop India for this, and I hope that other companies also follow the same after sales service model if they really want to retain their customers.

For your reference contact info for AutoCop is available in the link below

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Pick - The best of Guru

After doing rounds after rounds of listening to Guru's Music for the past two weeks, undoubtedly all the songs are real gems. But one song which really outshines the other is "Jaage Hain". The lyrics are really soulful and the vocal start of the song with minimal music is highly complemented by the chorus ending of the song. A.R. Rahman's voice is undoubtedly the highlight of the song and the more you hear this song, the more it grows on you. This song has a typical Rahman effect and is definitely the one to watch out for after the release of the movie.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Airtel Net on Phone Update

In continuation with my previous post, just checked out with the Customer Care guys, currently for Delhi circle in prepaid only Net On Phone is being offered and Mobile Office is still not available. Though mobile office is available for most of the other circles in pre paid. Lets hope that it also gets offered in Delhi soon.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Airtel providing net on phone (NOP) for prepaid subscribers in Delhi

Finally something to cheer for Airtel prepaid subscribers. Now they could also have access to Internet for a monthly fees of 99 Rs. Though you are able to view both WAP and regular HTML (non wap ) sites, I am unable to use any other applications which use the Internet (like messengers, gmail app) etc. To access full GPRS capabilities you need to use Mobile Office which is generally charged at either 399 or 499 per month (not sure about the figure), in addition I stll need to confirm that whether it's being offered for pre paid customers.

1/28/08 Update

Airtel is now not charging any monthly fees for the same, but now you can directly use Airtel Live settings to browse the whole internet at the charges of 15 paise for 10 kb (Check the Airtel Live portal to get the exact rates).

Just waiting for the mobile office charges from Airtel to come down (from the current 500 ) to something which I can actually manage ;-).